DESTIN — Numerous plants and trees could be planted early next year in many U.S. Highway 98 medians in Destin as part of a Florida Department of Transportation-led landscaping improvement project.
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The FDOT plans to pay for the estimated $1.16 million project. It will provide upgraded landscaping to the irrigated U.S. 98 (State Road 30) medians that stretch a little more than 3 miles between the Marler Bridge and Airport Road.
On Monday, the City Council unanimously agreed to have Mayor Gary Jarvis endorse a letter of support and intent that will be sent to the FDOT so the project can move forward.
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The letter shows the city’s commitment to maintaining the planned landscaping. Though the installation time frame wasn’t discussed at the council meeting, bids from companies that want to install the new plants and trees are planned to be opened next March.
Following the installation of the new landscaping and a two-year warranty period, the city will assume maintenance of the new plantings.
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Ninety percent of the design work for the planned landscaping is due to the FDOT by the end of May.
Last month, city staff met with employees of AECOM Engineering of Destin and Atkins Engineering, which has an office in Chipley, to discuss the overall project.
During that discussion, employees from those firms and the FDOT emphasized the need for a "plant-palette" that will include the varieties of turf grasses, shrubs, etc. the city wants to see throughout the U.S. 98 corridor, according to Destin Public Services Director Michael Burgess.
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Among other recommendations, the staff from the firms and FDOT said the existing trees in the medians can remain in place if the city so chooses. The majority of those trees are healthy crepe myrtles.
Some of the smaller trees (not crepe myrtles) within the project area have been either damaged or appear to be distressed, according to information from Burgess.
Project officials also recommended that all of the shrub and turf material within the medians be removed and replaced. Florida Native species are preferred.
Possible plant species for the reworked medians include live oak, little gem magnolia, ribbon palm, ligustrum, crepe myrtle, sabal palm, muhly grass and purple pixie loropetalum, according to the FDOT.
At Monday’s meeting, Councilman Chatham Morgan said he doesn’t want any palm trees or more crepe myrtles in the medians.
Councilman Parker Destin and Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell each said they want to see azaleas, while Councilman Cyron Marler said he "wasn’t thrilled" with ligustrum because it grows very tall.
The council’s views on what should and should not be in the medians will be provided to the FDOT.